Nostalgia is a wistful, bittersweet emotion. It can arise any time you
recall moments that helped define the person you’ve become….
Although nostalgia blends happiness with sadness, it typically brings
up positive feelings…. (Renew, Fall/Winter 2023, p. 22)
…(It) also has mental health benefits…. Thinking about key moments from your past might help you feel better about yourself, your relationships and the trajectory that your life has taken. (Renew, p. 20)
So, Renew Magazine (only available to members of a United Health Advantage plan) tells us that nostalgia increases “self-esteem, optimism, social connectedness, self-continuity, and meaning in life.” Well, I don’t doubt that nostalgia is psychologically beneficial; but lately, I’ve experienced its “sadness” downside. I’ve been trying to re-connect with long-lost friends and mentors. I’ve had one notable success, finding my old Classics professor, Karl Galinsky, on Facebook. However, when I looked for Dr. John G. Bordie, who supervised my Master’s Report, I discovered that he had died several years ago. When I looked for my college roommate and friend, Jack Burns, I was shocked to find that he too had died recently.
There are many nostalgic moments that I can recall with Jack. However, perhaps the most poignant was when we stayed up all of a chilly night and—using my 6-inch reflector telescope—observed Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. As regards Dr. Bordie, I can’t forget his revelation that I had made a presentation in a linguistics class unconsciously speaking English with a Spanish accent.
A recent event that evokes nostalgia is the welcoming party that Old Chatham members gave me when I joined the Meeting. Really, I feel unalloyed joy when I look at pictures of my wife and myself together with Bill and Bev Thompson, Don and Merry Lathrop, Farid Gruber and Rebecca McBride, together with many others, eating lunch on the outside porch of the Meeting House during the Covid Pandemic. The tinge of sadness that comes with the memory is the realization that the Meeting is not always so completely united in love as on that day.
So, if you want to dig out old school yearbooks or old photo albums, go ahead. If you feel nostalgic about the past, any tinge of sadness will surely give way to joy.
~ Richard Russell
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